Visual Memory #6 – ‘The Black Mirror’

Creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky… Our resident games expert Christopher Bell salvages another classic title from the scrap heap.

After the comic fantasy of Monkey Island and Discworld, it’s time to look at the darker side of point-and-click adventures. The Black Mirror involves murder, a family curse and creepy English (and Welsh) manor houses. Those of you of a fragile disposition, turn back now…

The Black Mirror was developed in 2003 by Czech developer Future Games, under the title Posel Smrti (Death’s Messenger). You play a nobleman by the name of Samuel Gordon, who returns to his ancestral home of Black Mirror Manor, in the ominous-sounding Willow Creek, near Norfolk, after an absence of 12 years.  Samuel’s grandfather, William, has been found dead, impaled on an iron fence.  Most people believe that he went mad and threw himself from the manor’s tower, but Samuel suspects a more sinister cause. Then the visions, nightmares and unexplained headaches begin. Samuel’s sanity will be stretched to its limits over the game’s six chapters…

The Black Mirror sets out two mysteries: how did William Gordon die and what was his connection to the dark, occult influences that seem to haunt the manor? Most of the action takes place in Willow Creek. However, there is an entire chapter set in a Welsh manor owned by the Gordons, which features Samuel being buried alive, Edgar Allan Poe-style.

Spooky old house? Check!

Being a mid-2000s point-and-click game means that The Black Mirror plays almost the same as every other title in this genre. You have an inventory bar, the lead character follows the mouse clicks and you solve puzzles by talking to the right people or using the right item in the right place at the right time. It’s the story and tone that set it apart and the game was lauded for its atmosphere, music, graphics and effects. Sadly, the same could not be said for the terrible voice acting or the disappointing conclusion.

But, unlike many point-and-click adventures, it is entirely possible to die a very messy death at least once per chapter. Be warned, there won’t be any warning of approaching danger…

No home is complete without a spooky lab

The Black Mirror was rather well received, and earned a cult following far from its native Czech Republic. After many fan requests, Black Mirrors II and III were released in 2009 and 2011 respectively, developed by Cranberry Production, a German developer, and released through fellow German company DTP. Both games eschew the original setting in favour of a new lead character, Darren Michaels from Biddeford, Maine as he becomes embroiled in the Gordon family curse.

I seriously doubt that there will be a fourth game. As a (now former) games tester, I had the pleasure of testing Black Mirror III, which brings the series to a satisfying conclusion. Perhaps Black Mirror was planned as a trilogy all along. Even so, I would love to see a prequel set in the Middle Ages to show exactly how the curse started. Black Mirror Origins, anyone?

It’s like an episode of Miss Marple

Game: The Black Mirror
Developer/Publisher: Future Games/The Adventure Company (US)/ GMX Media (EU)
Platforms: PC
Year: 2003 (US), 2004 (EU)

Christopher will be back with another forgotten gem next month. Until then, you can check out all his previous Visual Memory articles here.